Annual Report

The Open Data for Development Programme continued to prioritise our 5 core pillars throughout the work with our network partners, with the ultimate aim of using open data in innovative ways to advance better development.

Annual Report 2018 | OD4D - Open Data for Development

Executive summary

The OD4D Programme in 2017-18

2017 represented an important turning point for the Open Data for Development Network. Following a largely positive network evaluation, OD4D began to integrate key learnings from the evaluation into the network structure. Additional focus was placed on building OD4D’s regional network hubs as centres of excellence: demonstrating southern leadership of open data agendas, supporting context-specific open data use and discourse, and connecting with conversations about the “Data Revolution” at subnational, national, regional and international policy levels. This strategic shift allowed the network to better research and engage with important dialogues emerging around data for development (Ethics, Algorithms, and Privacy rights), to support relevant development priorities and sector-specific opportunities, and continue to act as conveners of stakeholders in government, civil society, academia and business.

With a renewed focus on the OD4D Network Hubs, we also engaged a network of advisors for the network. These advisors aimed to provide sector-specific advice, and explored important crossover areas, for example in terms of National Statistics, Open Cities, Data Governance, and Data and Gender. They acted as strategic representatives in some for a, and supported new learning models for building data literacy and technical capacity.

With a renewed focus on Gender, OD4D invested significant funds into further exploring how open data can support gender equality. A new set of investments which engages the OD4D network started in 2018, and work on combatting femicides with data in Latin America, data literacy in Haiti, and new innovations in Africa are slowly augmenting work in this area, with outcomes expected to be realised by 2018. The OD4D Network is also directly engaged in building the evidence that will support a more Feminist Open Government, a key priority of the Canadian co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Nathaniel Heller, which starts in September 2018.

The OD4D network also continued to support global efforts to measure and monitor open data. The last edition of the full Open Data Barometer, launched in 2017, provided a global overview and benchmarking of government open data. Also, the State of Open Data project began an open and consultative process to investigate the past ten years of open data, with over 32 chapters examining regional trends, sectors-specific discourse, and cross-data thematics, shared for consultation online and a final edition due in early 2019. And the network contributed to global activities around sharing new research and opportunities, aiming to use evidence

Finally, the programme had to contend with external forces relating to global strategy and shifting geopolitical headwinds. Some well-established funding partnerships came to an end, as OD4D reached the culmination of its initial programming cycle (2014-mid 2017). Meanwhile new ones began, such as with the welcome addition of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which has targeted the establishment of our new hub in Francophone Africa (CAFDO).

Ultimately, releasing and using open data to spur the public interest is far from a universal trend, and visions of open by default are far from being realized in a number of sectors and countries. At the same time, in the almost eight years that OD4D partners have been engaged in this space, the infrastructure, capacity, and discourse has evolved and been adopted by new actors. Since its inception the OD4D network has supported over 15 governments through technical support, provided capacity building to 1000+, generated a significant amount of learning and policy uptake, and provided a number of opportunities to seed and scale open data innovation and use.

The next OD4D Action Plan, currently in the planning phase for 2018-2020, will ultimately take emerging new trends into account, re-emphasizing research and learning, knowledge translation for policy change, and ongoing capacity building for existing and new actors, and the need to collectively build context-specific agendas to spur ongoing political support and sustainable investments into the open data space.

Open Data Innovation in a Global Context

“Open data is only valuable insofar as it is relevant to the concerns of society, and actually being used to improve people’s lives”

– Interim Technical report, Africa Open Data Network

As the field of open data has matured, discussions around the value of open data and understanding of the political will, drivers and capacities of government departments, National Statistics Offices, to supply of relevant and important data in via standards that facilitate its use and re-use through interoperability. While there is still a need for core skill building, now different models of sectoral collaboration are emerging to emphasize the potential uses of open data.

Now more than ever before, more diverse data from a variety of sources is being created and released, and this raises new opportunities for innovation towards the sustainable development goals, and also new opportunities for ethical, open sharing of data to serve the public interest in a variety of ways.

Much of the world’s government data is still closed

The 2016 Open Data Barometer, published in 2017 and supported by the OD4D network, revealed an important finding – as many as 9 out of 10 government data sets are still closed. With emerging innovative sources of data, and multiple systems within countries generating and/or using data, it is important to think about how systems can talk to each other to facilitate improved data collection/use, taking into account the ethical and operational challenges of interoperability

The big questions: Big Data, Open Data, Ethics, AI and Algorithms

New data sources, such as private sector data from mobile phones and satellites, citizen-sourced data, as well as data from global NGOs, has major potential to fill in the existing data gaps, but techniques to validate and use this data are still under study. New mechanisms of analysis and decision-making such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence benefit from data sharing and open data. A new and complex policy space is emerging that seeks to harness the power of data sharing and advanced analytics while ensuring privacy and rights. This conversation is moving beyond the technical and social aspects of open data to consider new legal and governance frameworks to manage the many sources of data for development.

Capacity is still a core challenge

Data literacy is but one of the many open data capacity gaps that continue to challenge the open data community. Technology gaps, human resource challenges, inadequate access to meaningful data, language restrictions, business model challenges all continue to be challenges that need to be overcome. That being said, this is an area that has seen significant progress and the emergence of many new communities.

Openness under threat: inequality, data gaps, democracy

Open Data is not neutral, and who gets counted and who does not often has political implications.

Taking gender issues seriously: Gender was one of the new emerging topics of the Open Data for Development (OD4D) Network is taking these trends into account as we seek to scale open data approaches that can improve the lives of citizens around the world.

2017 | 2018

Open Data for Development in Action

Objective 1

Catalyzing Regional and Global Action around Open Data


Leading the regional community in open government data innovation

Our regional hubs actively supported convening and mobilizing diverse stakeholders in for important discussions in their regional communities through dozens of activities and events, including the following key regional conferences:

  • The fifth Condatos - Abrelatam in Costa Rica in 2017
  • The first Conférence d’Afrique Francophone sur les Données Ouvertes (CAFDO) in June 2017 in Burkina Faso
  • The Africa Open Data Conference in July 2017 in Accra
  • Participating in important forums like the World Data Forum

Policy and Advocacy

Integrating Open Data into the Global Agenda

  • Supporting open data policy in Costa Rica: In partnership with OAS Trust, the Latin America Open Data Initiative regional hub assisted Costa Rican civil society and government to draft an open data policy, which was signed by the President of Costa Rica on April 27, 2017.
  • OD4D partner Open Data Watch supports National Statistical Offices opening their data: The United Nations Statistical Commission’s (UNSC) Friday Seminar in 2017 was on Open Data - a first for the commission, and a number of representatives outlined how they are using the Open Data Inventory. Following up on the results of the working session, the UNSC has formally committed to addressing the practical questions of making data open and accessible in the context of National Statistical Systems.
  • Summit of the Americas: ILDA brought together a number of stakeholders and drafted the Declaration in Advance of the Summit of the Americas to Heads of State outlining work and suggestions on transparency, open government, civic tech, open contracting, freedom of expression, gender equality, and the fulfillment of human rights in the Americas. In addition, the Open Data for Development-funded anti-corruption data package was a core reference/background for the discussions.

Objective 2

Support to Governments

Releasing open data is more than a technical endeavour – it often requires new ways of working and new kinds of skills to work in the open with a variety of groups within public services and outside of it. OD4D has consistently supported both political leaders as well as public service leaders through peer learning such as the Open Data Leaders Network, training, and technical support including policy advice, support towards implementing specific standards, and more.

Building Networks of Government Leaders

Building leaders within governments is key to help catalyze change, effectively implement open data policies, and to unlock data’s value to society. Our use online training and discussion forums and strategic gatherings for peer-networks bring together government leaders that are implementing open data initiatives in their own countries around the world. Ultimately, more than 500 people to date have participated in these activities.

Technical Support to Governments

In 2017, OD4D worked with regional hubs and other partners to provide support directly to governments on sectoral initiatives, implementing new standards and guides, and more. Haiti, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, Chile, Uruguay, Jamaica, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Argentina benefited in 2017-2018.

In 2018, Open Data for Development Network established a thematic partnership to further advance open data across the Open Government Partnership. This partnership aims to increase support for transformative commitments by strengthening the capacity for more effective planning and implementation of open data initiatives, particularly in developing countries.

Objective 3

Scale open data use and innovation in developing countries

Scaling Innovations

OD4D continues to build on previous work that prioritized standards, interoperability, open source platforms, effective licensing, and action research that documents learning on scaling. In 2017, OD4D is targeting investments in sectors with significant potential for social and economic impact. These areas have include open procurement and contracting, health, new research into gender methodologies, data journalism, anti-corruption, urban mobility, mobilizing new technologies to measure air quality, investigating data and agriculture, investing in resilient cities, and testing evidence-based models to provide better health to refugees, and scaling successful technologies.

Training Civil Society and Data Users

In 2017, OD4D has been experimenting with new models to train data users. Partners have explored a variety of models to deliver support. In Haiti, the Caribbean Open Institute and School of Data piloted a training module 300 young women on data-related skills, aiming to support their increased access to employment. In MENA, support for data journalism training aimed to help journalists use data in new and effective ways, as well as civil society. In Latin America, Gov Camps and roundtables have investigated new data standards. In Africa, they are testing the impact of embedded fellows who help build capacity in organizations, and in country led focal points who support additional work.

Objective 4

Monitoring Impact to understand the relationship between open data and development

The state of open data project

is an open and collaborative stock-taking exercise short summary articles that take stock of the open data landscape in particular communities, across the range of stakeholder groups, across different regions, or in light of key cross-cutting issues. The final edition, due in early 2019, will produce a flagship publication to serve as a core reference and as a stimulus for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers. It will build on OD4D (Open Data for Development) measurement tools that already examine both supply and demand for open data, and research that supports a growing number of communities across regions and sectors.

Supporting research uptake

Aiming to address language gaps and policy uptake, ILDA has development RIGA (Repositorio de Investigaciones Cuantitativa y Cualitativa sobre Innovaciones en Gobernanza) to share Spanish language findings of open data research.

Measuring what works

OD4D is supporting a special edition of the Open Data Barometer focusing on Africa that is nearing completion by the end of 2018. Similarly, CAFDO is aiming to ensure contextual materials are available for French language speakers.

Individual research

white papers, peer reviewed publications, and learning is being captured on diverse subjects such as AI, Right to Information, open data and health, combatting gender violence, capacity building, sensor data, costing and scalable business models, data journalism, pedagogy and more.

Open Data & Gender

OD4D has continued to prioritize support to innovation for gender equality and gender transformation. For instance, in Latin America, we have worked with the Organization of American States and governments in the region to help prevent and eliminate violence against women, catalysing actions to collect reliable data on domestic violence and women’s homicides.

MENAdata research will focus on analyzing the status of data and its levels of accessibility within the agricultural sector in Sudan, with a particular focus on women in the sector and the extent to which data on and for women, has been collected, managed or used in studies on the sector.

In partnership with the Government of Canada and the Open Government Partnership created the Feminist Open Government Initiative (FOGO), which seeks to build more evidence on how technology-enabled open government can lead to better governance. Open government processes that include anti-corruption, participatory budgeting, and other transparency and accountability initiatives have struggled to fully include women and other historically excluded groups due to a variety of power asymmetries. A significant portion of the initial work and consultations are being led by the OD4D network.

While the challenges around focus and capacity still exist, the renewed focus has resulted in significantly more activity, and we anticipate will lead to stronger outcomes heading into 2019/2020.

Challenges & Lessons learned

As a new phase of investments is completed, the Open Data for Development (OD4D) program will aim to build in stronger monitoring, evaluation and peer learning mechanisms into the projects for 2016-2020. OD4D will also draw strongly on the recommendations outline in the OD4D External Evaluation. These mechanisms will continue to include group calls, knowledge sharing, and efforts to build a broader community of practice – especially for people in the network who engage directly in developing countries.

Also, regional (and national) maturity and priorities differ significantly across the network, which can make collaboration more challenging. We are in the process of implementing a learning agenda and peer support forum to formalize collaborations between the hubs and the advisors.

Finally, we will continue to advance an evidence-based agenda for change, including supporting monitoring that better documents outcomes. The need for ongoing emphasis on knowledge translation, documenting learning, and communicating strategically with intent to influence core stakeholders and policy audiences, both as a network, and as individual actors and organizations.